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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (2 February) . . Page.. 66 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

As I heard the speeches from Mr Corbell, Ms Tucker and Mr Stanhope, I thought to myself that I could easily put all the arguments against selling ACTEW. They are not difficult to put. Not only are they easy to put but also, I must say, they have been put quite fluently today.

What changed the issue for this Assembly and for the previous Assembly was that we changed our accounting system to the system of accrual accounting. What did that do for us? We already knew that there was a superannuation liability. Remember, Mr Kaine's Priorities Review Board - I think that is what it was called - had identified that we did have a superannuation liability and it was something that we should address. In fact, if you look back through the budget figures you will see that Mr Kaine's Alliance Government was the only government that made a genuine attempt to address that issue.

But what the accrual accounting system did and what we knew it would do when we advocated the system was that it allowed us to quantify the issue of the superannuation liability and we could see just how serious the situation would be. It also raised the question for us: How did we get to this stage in just 10 short years with such an extreme liability? I digress, Mr Deputy Speaker, to talk about the level of the liability as dealt with in the report today. I asked the head of the Office of Financial Management to explain for us why it was that they had taken the conservative view of the estimate from the Actuary, and this is the reply that I got in writing:

There is not a range of earning rates provided by the Actuary to the ACT Government for calculation of the superannuation liability.

There is not a range provided. I think there is a broad misunderstanding in the community. I think that generally there is an understanding from the way this issue has been dealt with that there is a range. There is not a range provided. The Actuary provides a single set of parameters, including a single earnings rate. This is the rate used by the ACT Government. The Government therefore has not withheld any information from anyone. In June the Actuary will provide a single earnings rate. The liability can be adjusted only at that point. The issue of conservatism versus optimism is therefore a little irrelevant. However, when the Actuary chooses his range of earning rates, he will pick - not surprisingly; he is an actuary - a conservative estimate, as is prudent and as is always done by actuaries. As an aside, I think that does highlight the issue.

The issue is an interesting one in that many people have said to us that we ought not to confuse the debate on ACTEW with the debate on the superannuation liability; they are completely separate. I challenge that. I think it is a major furphy.

Mr Berry: Oh!

MR MOORE: I will explain why. For you, Wayne, I will explain it slowly. The only reason people are looking around for a major source of funds is that we have a major debt. Wayne Berry started as a Minister in the First Assembly under the Follett Government. We have a major liability that we have to deal with. That is why the two are connected. How do you resolve that major liability? I will answer the question. The first thing that becomes obvious, the first solution that is available, is by the sale of a major asset.

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